Learn To Spin

By Anne Field Pub­lisher David Bate­man RRP $45

The Press - Zest - - Craft - MARY KIRK-AN­DER­SON KATY MCRAE

Spin­ning’s pop­u­lar­ity with the gen­eral craft­ing pop­u­la­tion has had its up and downs, but for Anne Field it has been a con­stant since 1962, when she first spot­ted her neigh­bours spin­ning and de­cided to give it a go her­self.

Now an in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned spin­ner and weaver based in Christchurch, and author of more than seven books, Anne has taken her skills into the realm of the artist. But she has not for­got­ten those early years of learn­ing how to turn raw fleece into beau­ti­ful yarn. She says her lat­est book, Learn to Spin, is what she needed her­self back then, when pub­lished ma­te­rial on the sub­ject was scarce.

Learn to Spin is a colour­ful, at­trac­tive and in­for­ma­tive guide cov­er­ing the ba­sics of the spin­ning process and much more, in­clud­ing prepa­ra­tion of fleeces, dif­fer­ent spin­ning meth­ods and how spin­ning wheels work, draw­ing on Anne’s more than 50 years of ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with fi­bre. It fea­tures a va­ri­ety of fi­bres other than wool now avail­able to spin­ners, such as al­paca, mo­hair, silk and flax, but also fo­cuses on dif­fer­ent sheep breeds and the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the wool they pro­duce.

The in­struc­tions are clear and well-il­lus­trated, but with plenty of ‘‘prob­lem solv­ing’’ side­bars at­test­ing to the time and prac­tice needed for pro­fi­ciency in any craft.

Sev­eral knit­ting and weav­ing projects are in­cluded, even one to show­case the unique style of your early yarns. As Anne says, these will have a tex­ture you may never achieve again, even if you try.

Early in her book Anne de­scribes spin­ning as a med­i­ta­tive pas­time which has soothed her soul, and this has no doubt been a bless­ing in re­cent months. Her stu­dio and pre­cious loom in the Arts Cen­tre were de­stroyed in the Fe­bru­ary earthquake, but she is con­tin­u­ing her work out of a tem­po­rary stu­dio at her home.

Women who sew to­gether, stick to­gether. Ali­son Wilson’s Mon­day night em­broi­dery class is a case in point. A core group of women have been meet­ing for years – lit­er­ally. They have fol­lowed Ali­son from schools to com­mu­nity halls, weath­er­ing the wax­ing and wan­ing of night class pop­u­lar­ity, the chal­lenges of govern­ment fund­ing short­falls and, more re­cently, the dra­mas of earthquake dam­aged venues.

Ali­son is a supremely tal­ented wo­man. She is a very skilled em­broi­derer, but what takes her from good to great is her abil­ity as a teacher. The women in her class all rave about her and the fact they keep com­ing back and back . . . and back, shows that there’s some­thing spe­cial go­ing on. This isn’t your or­di­nary, ev­ery day night class. Ali­son loves what she does, and it shows.

Ali­son be­gan her ca­reer as a ‘‘jour­ney­woman’’, serv­ing an ap­pren­tice­ship in dress­mak­ing. She didn’t get any teach­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tions (‘‘you had to study Home Sciences for that’’) but on the back of her ex­pe­ri­ence she got a job teach­ing a dress­mak­ing class at night school. For the first few years, most of her stu­dents were older than she was. That was 50 years ago. More re­cently (about 30 years ago) she made the switch to teach­ing em­broi­dery, af­ter com­plet­ing the pres­ti­gious two-year Lon­don City and Guilds Em­broi­dery course.

‘‘I was talk­ing with a wo­man who comes along to one of my classes and she men­tioned her son was now 50. She joined my class to learn how to make him shorts when he was in kinder­garten,’’ says Ali­son.

Max­ine Kissling started with Ali­son in 2003. That’s the date on her sam­pler, which is the first piece of work you do in Ali­son’s class if you’re a begin­ner. ‘‘I re­gard this as ‘my time’. I love sewing and this class gives me the chance to be creative,’’ says Max­ine. ‘‘Ev­ery­one needs to do some­thing creative. You don’t have to be good at it, you just have to have a good teacher.’’

Gina Walsh joined to learn bul­lion roses. For the unini­ti­ated, bul­lion roses are the sort of thing you’d see on smock­ing (and for those who don’t know what smock­ing is, you can get up to speed with a quick Google search). Three years later, she’s still here. ‘‘Ali­son keeps bring­ing out more and more in­ter­est­ing projects to do.’’

Thyra Colsell joined the group two years ago, hav­ing just em­i­grated from South Africa.

‘‘I’ve al­ways had an in­ter­est in sewing and these classes gave me a chance to get out and meet peo­ple.’’

Eileen Whit­more worked out she’s been com­ing along to Ali­son’s classes for at least 10 years. She had a stroke 13 years ago and started em­broi­dery for some­thing to do. For her, it’s re­lax­ing and en­joy­able and it helps that ‘‘Ali­son is one of the best teach­ers in New Zealand’’.

By com­par­i­son, Donna Bruce is a new­bie. She’s only been in the class for the past nine weeks, though she has done other classes with Ali­son. ‘‘I’m stalk­ing her,’’ Donna jokes.

It’s the com­bi­na­tion of cre­ativ­ity and com­pan­ion­ship which makes this group so suc­cess­ful. ‘‘It’s the fun we have, even though we only see each other once a week,’’ says Jean­nie Moeller, who has been com­ing for at least six years.

Dur­ing the past 12 months, the classes have taken on a new di­men­sion – as a refuge from all the earthquake mad­ness. Un­til last Septem­ber, Lola Gro­cott and Ann Haase had been neigh­bours for about 37 years. These days their houses are within the red zone and they now live in dif­fer­ent sub­urbs. While a lot has changed in their lives, Mon­day night em­broi­dery has stayed the same. It’s that con­ti­nu­ity which many of the group say they have found com­fort­ing.

‘‘Go­ing to em­broi­dery is a nor­mal thing to do. While all the chaos is go­ing on it’s good to catch up and share sto­ries,’’ says Thyra.

‘‘The earth­quakes have made it hard for peo­ple to con­cen­trate,’’ says Ali­son. ‘‘But just get­ting out of the house is a good thing, even if you aren’t man­ag­ing to keep up with your home­work.’’

Yes, there is home­work, but you don’t see any­one com­plain­ing.

Ali­son is so pas­sion­ate about what she does that she can’t en­vis­age a time when she will stop teach­ing.

‘‘I’m go­ing to have to be told when I am too old to teach . . . though I think this lot would be too scared to tell me, even if I was.’’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.